On Thursday night, we celebrated being one of the UK’s most impressive 100 businesses at the Smarta100 awards.
On Friday night, we won two FutureBook Awards. Jack and the Beanstalk won the Digital Children’s Fiction Book Award. I was so surprised that I didn’t write down what the FutureBook judges said, but this is an app that has already had many accolades. The Sunday Times said, “Nosy Crow’s latest fairy tale remake is a new high in the British publisher’s blending of storytelling and gameplay,” and gave it five stars, while The Guardian said, “The latest storybook app from children’s publisher Nosy Crow is its best yet: a wonderfully rich retelling of the famous fairy tale, with nine mini-games but also a strong emphasis on narrative and reading. It’s a real showcase for the potential of children’s apps,” and USA Today said, “Jack and the Beanstalk cleverly creates an intersection where gaming and reading meet”. In what Nigel Roby, the owner of The Bookseller, said was a particularly hard-fought category, another of our apps, Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Safari, was also shortlisted. Tom (on the left, in the photo above, while I’m on the right) accepted the award for Nosy Crow, and named Ed, Will and AJ, our brilliant apps-building team, as the real winners of the prize in his acceptance speech. We have FutureBook form, in fact: our Cinderella won Best Children’s App in 2011 and our Rounds: Parker Penguin won Best Children’s Digital Book in 2013.
In even more of a turn-up for the books, I was named Inspiring Digital Publishing Person of the Year. I had – really – not considered this a possibility, so my acceptance speech was unprepared to say the least. Frankly, I was also a bit nervous about going on stage with Nigel Roby, since my embarrassing attempt to accept an award we hadn’t won (but were highly commended for) at The Bookseller Awards earlier this year. Stefan Nickel, Marketing and Communications Director of The Frankfurt Book Fair, which sponsors this award, wrote a speech which there wasn’t time to deliver, he said, but which he gave to me on two bits of card torn from the notebook in his hotel. The authenticity of the provenance of this makes me feel almost OK about quoting it in full.
Stafan (would have) said: “We are delighted that Kate Wilson is this year’s winner. Not only is Kate a very inspiring person, but her company, Nosy Crow, is widely recognised for its innovative digital products. It also fits perfectly with the Frankfurt Book Fair: Nosy Crow’s business, like ours, is global – three quarters of its app revenue and two thirds of its print revenue comes from outside the UK. And Nosy Crow’s success story isn’t only about digital: by September 2013, its third year of publishing, it had become the 19th biggest publisher of children’s books in the UK and the 13th biggest publisher of picture books in the UK. What makes Nosy Crow so successful is that it seems to be perfectly mixing its traditional publishing skills with new business skills and products.”
If ever there were a case of an individual winning a prize that really belongs to many people, this is it. I am hugely proud of founding a company and hiring a team that produces remarkable digital products and marketing from our story apps to Stories Aloud and our latest app, Nosy Crow Jigsaws, but I rely, every day, on the technical skills of the team for our success.
I am not 100% clear how this award is awarded, but I know that there’s a public voting component. If you voted for me, thank you very much: this prize means a lot to me, and, more importantly, it’s a tribute to the Nosy Crow team.
As you may have guessed from the title of this post, we have a new Twitter account! There’s now an @NosyCrowBooks feed, which will be devoted entirely to information about – unsurprisingly – our books, with some tweeting and retweeting about children’s books in general.
We’ve had an @NosyCrowApps account that has operated in a similar capacity for a while now. And nothing about the @NosyCrow Twitter feed will change, but it’s very much Kate’s account and she talks about many things. In fact, the catalyst for a discussion as to whether it might be a good idea to have a books-only feed was a recent tweet in which Kate explained why she was not wearing shorts in hot weather.
It’s important to us that none of our Twitter feeds has a corporate or filtered feel. And @NosyCrowBooks will have the same kind of friendly informality that informs our other Twitter feeds: I’ll be contributing to the feed and I certainly find it difficult to think of myself as “corporate” while I am sat barefoot at my desk messily eating peaches.
If you follow @NosyCrowBooks (as well as one or both of our other Twitter feeds) you’ll be able to keep up with publication dates, author events, competitions, and reviews – and please, write to us with any questions or your own reviews of Nosy Crow titles you’ve read!
The awards recognise the best-in-class across twelve categories of book apps, eBooks and enhanced eBooks. Cinderella won in the Juvenile App category, and Kate was in New York to accept the award last night – she tweeted a picture of it here.
Matt Mullin, Community Relations Manager for Digital Book World, said “Well-designed ebooks and apps are not just beneficial to a publisher’s brand – they are essential to a publisher’s business. When publishers surprise and delight their readers, they gain advocates who will talk about, recommend, and discover more of their quality work. We are proud to honor this year’s winners because each demonstrates excellence that inspires creators and readers alike.”
These are just two of many, many instances when I, or others of us at Nosy Crow, have defended digital, as opposed to print, reading for children.
So we were interested to see this article in the New York Times last weekend which suggests that adults who have discarded print in favour of their Kindles or Nooks still prefer traditional print books for their children.
We don’t see the choice between digital and print reading as an either/or scenario. Instead, we think that some reading experiences suit the page, while others are right for digital devices.
We aren’t very interested in creating digital reading experiences that are simply squashing an existing illustrated book onto a phone or a tablet.
Like some of the parents in the article, we agree that there is something special about paper – the touch and feel of it, the heft and three-dimensionality of it, and the size of the page – that means that reading a picture book, or a pop-up book, a lift-the-flap or a touch-and-feel book is a great experience. And there are many print picture books, pop-up books, lift-the-flap and touch-and-feel books in our existing and forthcoming book publishing plans
But we are also very aware that children spend increasing amounts of time using screens. We would like some of the time that they spend using those screens to be reading time. But that means, I think, that the reading experience we offer on screen needs to be as multimedia and interactive as the gaming experiences they will encounter in the same space.
I take our responsibility as people with decades – in my case 25 years – of experience of telling stories on paper very seriously. I think that we should be bringing that experience – and adapting it and building on it too, of course, as we learn new skills and bring new skills, such as games devising and programming skills into publishing – to screen-based story-telling. If we don’t create really engaging reading experiences for children who will spend increasing amounts of their leisure time on screen, I think we are failing them.
And it’s that wish to create really engaging, multimedia, interactive iPad experiences that are also, crucially, reading experiences, that is behind apps such as The Three Little Pigs and Cinderella.
What happens when you pack a hotel conference room full of social media mavens, marketing experts and brands? A whole lot of tweeting, that’s for sure.
This past weekend I had the chance to jump into a mix just like this in New York at the SheStreams Conference. The focus was on marketing to women. (Sorry, guys.)
There were some really inspiring speakers, like Rene Syler author of Good Enough Mother and a former CBS news anchor. Rene dispensed some great nuggets of wisdom about being true to yourself and following your passion in work and life. Also, we heard from Lisa Druxman, founder of the American company Stroller Strides. She told the story of how her business, which focuses on pre and postnatal exercises for moms, grew from a workout she designed for herself, into a rapidly expanding American franchise.
One of my favorite panels during the conference featured our friends at Moms With Apps, Lorraine and Lynette. They did an apps soup to nuts presentation that covered everything from finding a developer to picking a platform (iOS vs. Android). You can see the link to their presentation here.
At the Moms with Apps panel I had the opportunity to give some input on how Nosy Crow approaches our outreach to reporters and bloggers… bottom line: lots of emails! Holly Rosen Fink from Ruckus Media Group was there as well. Ruckus recently announced a partnership with Scholastic. The photo above shows Holly, Lynette, Lorraine and me after the panel. (left to right).
For me, the overarching messages from SheStreams was the importance of staying true to your mission, and communicating that passion to others. And I think that’s what everyone here at Nosy Crow does. We aim to inspire children to love reading, whether in print books or apps, and we’re always thinking about what they will find exciting, or engrossing or amusing.
So far, it seems like we’re on the right track. But we love getting feedback from children, parents, teachers and fellow app developers. So keep the suggestions coming! The beauty of the App Store is that we can improve and update The Three Little Pigs and Cinderella regularly. Each time we make a change, people who own the app get an alert that an update is available.
Likewise, when the next Cinderella update is available, we’ll be sure to tweet it to you. That is, after all, what we do. Conference room or not.
Art in Action
is a four day event held at Waterperry House and Gardens in Oxfordshire. Every year around 25,000 visitors come to observe hundreds of artists demonstrating how they work.
This was my second year demonstrating in the illustration and calligraphy marquee. Along with four other illustrators and five calligraphers we drew and talked and painted as well as selling some prints and originals and lots of books.
I was showing how I am working on sketch layouts for my next book, Dinosaur Zoom, using an iPad, alongside examples of the layouts for Dinosaur Dig! (which were done on paper).
I showed how rather than sticking lots of layers of paper one on top of the other when working up plans for illustrations, and ending up with a very bumpy paper sandwich, I could work the layers separately and smoothly on the iPad. People were amazed at the degree of subtlety that can be achieved drawing directly on the screen with a capacitive stylus. Some children had a go at drawing a dinosaur on the iPad themselves, and loved the way the brushes app we use would replay their drawing step by step. Pure ‘Art in Action’! (You can see a video of how the process works here.
I did reassure people that I would still produce the actual artwork for DINOSAURZOOM using watercolour and pencil crayons on real paper, but the iPad is certainly great for roughs.
While this was going on some very hardworking friends were also talking to people and selling books – lots of books! Ten in the Bed and Once There Were Giants were favorites and Dinosaur Dig went so fast we started to run out on the first day with Friday and the weekend still to come! Imogen was brilliant at Nosy Crow HQ, and managed to send another load which arrived the next day. All of those went too! Here’s the last copy being sold!
It was lovely to see the range of ages who liked Dinosaur Dig. A rather hot and tired 6 month old baby in a facing out sling carrier stopped crying and laughed when he saw the cover – excitedly shouting and flapping his arms and legs! Bigger children liked reading it and asked lots of questions about making the book – some even said “Cool!” when they got to the end. Many nursery and infant teachers said how it was just the thing for reading AND number work with their children. We were really delighted with all the reactions.
I want to say a huge thank you to the organisers of Art in Action and all the volunteers for making it such a unique and wonderful event! Now it’s time to unpack everything back into the studio and start on the actual artwork for Dinosaur Zoom… so which box did I put the drawing board in?
The London Book Fair, which has less of a rights focus and more of an export focus and is a general (as opposed to a children’s books) book fair, is very much secondary in importance to the Bologna Book Fair for Nosy Crow. It was particularly tough to focus on it this year as it came so hard on the heels of the Bologna Book Fair. It’s a fair at which, this year and last, we haven’t taken a stand, though I think we may have to rethink that for next year, given the number of messages left for us with the kind people of the Independent Publishers Guild stand.
On Tuesday and on Wednesday (when Axel was, with Julia Donaldson, combined “author of the day”), Kate had a series of rights appointments. Some were with publishers who, for one reason or another, we were unable to see at Bologna, and some were follow-ups to Bologna apointments. We also had the chance to meet up with a few UK bookshop and other buyers.
Nosy Crow had been invited to participate in a Publishers Association presentation of key titles for the second half of the year to independent booksellers. We were the last of 12 publishers, and, the session was, perhaps inevitably, a bit of a “death-by-powerpoint” kind of thing, so we entirely abandoned our powerpoint, and spoke about just four things we’re publishing in the second half of this year, which I felt (on the hoof) gave some sense of the age-range and kind of books we cover: Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster ; Mega Mash-ups: Pirates and Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum ; Olivia Flies High ; and our Christmas picture book, Just Right. Realistically, after seeing 70-odd titles, I thought that there wasn’t a chance of anyone remembering much about individual books, but I hoped that, by taking the less conventional approach, the independent booksellers would remember Nosy Crow, so that, when their Bounce rep came calling, they’d feel positively disposed towards the books.
The photo above, which is as unflattering as it is grainy, was taken by Tom Bonnick, who’s interning with us. We wanted to check that his standards of photography are on the same level as our own if he is to continue to intern for us, and I am happy to say that they are! He did just take it with a phone, though, and from a long way away.
Today, Deb and I went to the first Tools of Change conference at Bologna. Tools of Change is a sequence of conferences about publishing in the digital age, but today’s was the first to focus exclusively on children’s books.
Organised, at least in part, by Neal Hoskins of Winged Chariot, who couldn’t be more passionate in his conviction about the importance of apps as a new form of story-telling for children, it was a 200+ person conference with delegates from 27 countries… and a great success.
Deb spoke eloquently about the interactivity that’s at the heart of our apps development. She spoke about the interactivity that is at the heart of the content – we want to creat apps that children want to read, explore and play with. She spoke about the interactivity that is the basis of how we create an app, pulling together original text, audio, music, illustration, animation and coding into a whole in a way that involves lots of collaboration. She spoke about the interactivity that we have with readers and buyers of the app, as the digital world provides us ways of finding out – and acting upon – what our customers think of what we’re doing. She was mobbed by publishers at the end of the panel discussion in which she took part, all keen to find out more about what we do and how we do it.
And, at the very beginnning of the conference, I delivered the first keynote address. Frankly, this was playing against type: I could bore for Britain about Nosy Crow and what we believe is important, but I thought that the first keynote should sort of sketch out the landscape that the rest of the conference might cover. Armed only with data from Book Marketing Limited and The Futures Company, together with a few opinions, I talked about, on the one hand, digital selling and marketing of print books and of eBooks and other reading experiences; and, on the other hand. about digital products. First I talked about what was happening now in those two areas, and then I looked at what might happen in the future.
The opportunities for digital selling and marketing are already huge. One in four books – and one in five children’s books – in the UK is sold via an internet-only retailer (and Amazon is much the largest of these) so digital selling is a real and growing fact of life. Websites, electronic marketing and social media have opened up a way for publishers, who have traditionally “handed off” relationships with readers and book-buyers to retailers, to communicate directly with their consumers in a two-way conversation, and we have seen the development of the “consumer critic” – blog and rate-and-review website-enabled people whose opinion is trusted by other consumers, perhaps more than they trust the voice of the professional critic.
The opportunities for digital selling and marketing will, I think, only grow in future, and I quoted Aaron Miller of Bookglutton:
“Social publishing is the natural evolution of publishing as a business. It encompasses the web and all new distribution platforms including the way people read and discover on them… Social publishing involves a deep interest in, and study of, what happens to a text after it’s disseminated – how readers interact with it, how they share it, how they copy it, how they talk about it.”
The market for digital product is still evolving. Ebooks (and I’m not including apps here) accounted for only 1.26% of the UK book market by volume in 2010 and 0.4% of the UK children’s book market in the same year.
Nevertheless, the rate of adoption of digital reading is accelerating: in January 2010, just 3% of US book-buyers had bought a digital book, but by January 2011, that figure was 13%. And where the US leads, I think, the rest of the world will follow. Looking ahead, one concern is the consumer expectation that digital product should be cheap, or, indeed, free. As Lyle Undercoffler of Disney said, “Free is the four-letter word of digital publishing – the word that we don’t want to hear.” Another concern are the ongoing challenges to copyright. Almost a year ago, I wrote a blog post welcoming England’s Digital Economy Bill, and it now seems perfectly possible that the current government may not implement this protection of creators’ rights. Whether or not this Bill represents exactly the right way to protect the rights of creators is less important to this post today than the fact that this challenge to copyright may be in line with consumer expectations that they should be able to interact with, personalise and change the things that they read in ways that suit them. I quoted Adam Penenberg:
“Instead of stagnant words on a page we will layer video throughout the text, add photos, hyperlink material, engage social networks of readers who will add their own videos, photos, and wikified information so that these multimedia books become living, breathing, works of art.”
When I think about the impact of the digital world on publishing, I think of this quote from the twentieth-century economist Joseph Schumpeter:
“A railroad through new country upsets all conditions of location, all cost calculations, all production functions within its radius of influence and hardly any ways of doing things which have seemed optimal before remain so afterwards.”
The role of the publisher is changing. If there is this thing that we call “content” – ideas, words, images, audio, video, animation – and there is a reader, and there is a process for getting that content to the reader, we need to think strategically about what our role in that process is. We don’t, as publishers, have any kind of right to play a part in that process. We have to carve out our place in the process, by bringing to it something that we can do better than anyone else.
No-one owes us publishers lunch. We have to earn it.
This is big bananas for us, and we have been working flat-out to get ready for it.
It is one of two weeks in the year – the other is the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, but Bologna’s the big one – when we meet the non-UK publishers we’ll do business with for the rest of the year. At Bologna, we have just 30 minutes (20 if they have to queue for the loo before the appointment) to impress a foreign publisher with our books. The aim of the game is to sell, or at least interest them in buying, the right to publish our books in translation.
For the last few months, Anne-Marie’s been putting together the schedule of selling appointments for me and for Adrian. We have appointments every half-hour from 9.00am to 5.30pm without breaks for three-and-a-half days.
For the last month, too, Imogen’s been collecting together final print and freight prices for books of many different sizes and kinds – board books and pop-up books and picture books, and working out how much we have to sell them for in order to stay in business. This is a hard task: we always want our books to be the best they can be – to have the heaviest paper, the most spectacular pop-ups the most unusual touch-and-feels – and it’s tough to compromise!
For the past few weeks we’ve been receiving artwork from illustrators. Some of it arrived in time for us to proof it, but most of it, because we are still new and building our list and publishing sooner after artwork delivery than is ideal, did not, so we’ve had to make dummies using photocopies of the art stuck into blank books. This is an unbelievably time-consuming, tricky, painstaking and monotonous task, and Steph and Nia, in addition to doing lots of last-minute designing, have been working on this tirelessly with Camilla. Nia finished the very last one at 10.30pm yesterday evening.
And for the past few weeks we’ve also been pulling together words and pictures to add to the books section of our website to announce some of the books we’ll be taking to Bologna, including The Grunts, the acquisition of which we announced to a great response on Wednesday.
For the past day or so, we’ve had a steady stream of meetings with people who are in the UK before they go to the book fair – our Japanese agent, Noriko Hasagawa, for example – who I mentioned in a recent post – and Liz Bray from our Australian distributors, Allen and Unwin. They have gamely picked their way through the chaos of the office, and brushed scraps of paper and fur-fabric (for touch-and-feel books) from chairs before sitting down at a table that is slightly sticky with glue.
For the past day or so, too, I have finally been getting down to working on the slides for the first Tools of Change Conference to happen in Bologna, at which I am – eek! – the first keynote speaker on Sunday.
And yesterday, as if we didn’t have enough to do, we bought (or at least confirmed the deals on) three picture book texts, illustrations for two picture books and a debut novel.
I’m dating the start of the company from our announcement of our existence, which we sent to the trade press and others on 22 February 2010. In some ways, we didn’t feel quite ready to announce, but our hand was forced by two things. The first was that I had been asked to judge the British Book Awards and had given my job title as “MD of Nosy Crow” for an announcement of the make-up of the judging panels that came out in the week of 22 February 2010. The second was that I’d been messing around with Facebook on the evening of 21 February, working out how to set up a fan page and invite people to it, when I inadvertently sent out a message to my entire address book for a profile that referred to Nosy Crow.
We had, from memory, just three projects signed at the time we announced, and a stated intention to acquire from established talent and from newcomers. We also clearly stated that we intended to create apps from scratch. There were four of us – me, co-founders Camilla Reid and Adrian Soar, and Imogen Blundell – in a single room in an office complex in a Victorian school building.
One year on…
We have three print titles published. In mid-January, we published Small Blue Thing, a debut romantic fantasy that was written by the colleague of the headhunter I consulted when I was thinking I’d get the hell out of the industry. In mid-February, we published Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on MarsMega Mash-up: Robots v Gorillas in the Desert, innovative two-colour combinations of fiction and doodle-book drawing on popular themes by a team who came to us because I’d worked with one of them at Scholastic when he was a designer there.
This year, we will publish 23 print titles for children from 0 to 14, most acquired since February 22 2010. True to our original vision, these are books that children will really enjoy reading: when we acquire a book, we do so with a strong sense of who it’s for. Our books are by established names like Axel Scheffler and Penny Dale and from newer exciting talents. The list – and we’ll be announcing the first six months of 2012 before Bologna – will grow in 2012.
We have one e-book published. Small Blue Thing is our only black-and-white book so far and was the first ebook we created with the support of Faber Factory. I decided that we’d focus our digital aspirations on illustrated publishing and apps.
This year, we will publish 5 straight ebooks.
We have one app published. Last week, we published a cutting-edge story book app, The Three Little Pigs, to quite remarkable reviews (including one from FutureBook, The Bookseller’s digital publishing blog).
This year, we will publish at least two more highly-interactive, cutting-edge, multimedia apps.
From the beginning, we were interested in using websites and social media to communicate with potential consumers – mainly parents in our case – as well as with potential suppliers in the form of authors and illustrators and customers. We launched with a lively website that has evolved over time but remains true to our original plan. We wanted to create something with real personality, that was professional but also warm, honest and informal… and that was updated constantly: we blog several times a week to provide a window into what we do. In our first year, we’ve had a over a quarter of a million page-views from over 20,000 visitors in 129 countries, and, since we’ve had books and apps on the market, visitor numbers have risen sharply. Thank you very much for visiting us.
We’ve sold in our first list via Bounce and have promotions with Sainsbury’s, Tesco, ELC/Mothercare, WH Smith, WH Smith Travel, Waterstones and Foyles. Our books are in shops from museum giftshops to Toys ‘R’ Us.
We’ve been active internationally too. In May, Allen and Unwin begins distributing our books in Australia and New Zealand. So far, we’ve sold rights in our books to Germany, France, Holland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, China, Korea and Israel with more good news lined up for announcement over the next few weeks.
There are 11 of us now. We’ve been able to attract the most extraordinary talent to work with us, from games coding genius, Will Bryan, to picture book supremo, Kate Burns. Most of us are parents; several of us work part-time; and several of us work from home and only come into our (slightly bigger) open-plan office occasionally.
There have been challenges and disappointments, and there will undoubtedly be more ahead! There has been constant, grinding, sometimes dull hard work.
We worry – of course we do – about the book market and our place in the print and digital future that is unfolding. But it’s been fun.
It’s been a good year!
Things we haven’t loved so much about this year:
Queuing at the post-office.
Being responsible for all the boring stuff like printer maintenance.
Cold-calling people without a big name behind us.
Things we’ve loved:
Being able to buy great books from authors and illustrators we want to work with as they develop.
Being able to act quickly and decisively.
Selling our books!
The conversations that have opened up online between us and readers, parents, creators and sellers.
Working with great colleagues in a relaxed and fun environment fuelled by cake.
My 4-year-old wears sneakers with Velcro straps. My 6-year-old’s shoes have laces, but he often comes home with the strings flying, his heels popping out of the soles. Once, he arrived missing a sock. His sneaker had fallen off at recess, and after stepping in a puddle, he threw his sock in the trash. He was too busy to stop playing and tie the laces.
Nevertheless, my boys are technologically savvy. They can turn on my iPad, find their favorite apps and get them running without my help. And according to a new study, they’re right in line with their peers. Here’s a clip from a Wall Street Journal story:
In a recent survey, 14% of kids age 4 or 5 could tie their shoes, while 21% could play or operate at least one smartphone app.
In the same study, which polled 2,200 mothers in several developed countries, 22% of children that age knew at least one Web address, 34% could open a Web browser and 76% could play an online computer game. By comparison, 31% knew to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency, 35% could get their own breakfast (which we assume doesn’t mean making eggs) and 53% knew their home address…
The study also found some interesting differences among countries — like the fact that 30% of children between the ages of 2 and 5 in the U.S. could operate smartphone apps, while 11% of kids in Japan could. About 70% of young children in the U.K. and France could play computer games, compared with 61% in the U.S. and 44% in Japan.
Since I began consulting to Nosy Crow, preparing to publicize the launch of the 3-D Three Little Pigs app, I’ve seen firsthand how easy it is for children to learn digital skills. In fact, they take to the screen much more intuitively than adults.
My boys have tested the Three Little Pigs app at various stages of development, and where an adult might fumble with the screen, trying to figure out how to make the pigs talk, run and jump, the boys just get it. Most importantly, from my perspective, the app is reinforcing their reading skills. They read the words while the narrator speaks. They direct the dialogue by tapping on the characters, and my 6-year-old uses the Read By Myself feature.
What’s even more interesting is the way the app has sparked small bursts of creativity when they aren’t using the iPad. Several months ago, my older son wrote a short story of the Three Little Pigs on his own initiative. No prompting whatsoever.
Most recently, as I was making dinner one night, both boys grabbed paper and pens and, lo and behold, started designing their own apps. My 4-year-old drew a crane with a wrecking ball that knocked down a building. He made several screens, and in each one the building got bigger and bigger. As for my 6-year-old, his app is a story of a monkey trying to get bananas from a tree. In each scene, the screens gets harder as the monkey dodges flying coconuts, lightening bolts and snow balls.
Truth be told, they had recently seen a news story about a 14-year-old boy who had created a best selling app called Bubble Ball. They decided that they, too, wanted to make their own apps.
So are they on their way to writing complex computer code? Not quite yet. But they are way ahead of their parents. And even if they can’t tie their shoes, I have no doubt they’ll be just fine.
Now could someone please design a shoelace tying app?
— This post was written by U.S.-based marketing consultant, Andi Silverman who is helping us promote our first app next month.
Actually, you get lots of giggling, “not by the hair on my chinny chin chin” chanting, some ooh-ing and ahh-ing, a semi-serious discussion about whether it’s okay to choose the straw house as your favourite character, ideas for our next app, multiple swan dives off the sofa, and a whole lot of fun.
And soon we’ll have a very cool app video trailer to share with you. Watch this space.
It’s Kate B’s birthday. Happy birthday to her! We can’t let standards slip, so a cake has been baked. Look at Twitter later for pictures.
Yesterday, Kate W spoke in a Digital Book World/Publisher’s Weekly webinar on Children’s Publishing in the Digital Age with Rick Richter of (US-based) Ruckus Media and head of Harper Collins Children’s Books in the US, Susan Katz. The webinar is available for one week, before it goes into the members-only section of the Digital Book World site, and for now you can see it/listen to it here
Kate said that we had ten aims for our apps:
To create something new and exceptional
To experiment (and to experiment in media other than text and still images)
To find new talent
To commission creative material that really uses the features of the touchscreen devices
To avoid squashing existing book-based content onto touchscreen devices
To make sure that a child who is used to the interactivity and multimedia experience of the touchscreen device is not disappointed by anything we make
To create an enhanced and different reading experience for children
To create something that parents will feel happy to give to their children
To invite the reader into the story through interaction and personalisation
To create or evolve a business model that works for us, for our creative talents and for any partners we may work with.
If you’d like to see a (very basic – a professional one’s in the works) video of our first app (which we’ll release in January), here’s the link to it on our YouTube channel
The New York Times recently wrote an article about the rising popularity of the iPhone and apps for toddlers. Parents are increasingly turning to app-filled devices to occupy their kids. A little iPad or iPhone time in the doctor’s office waiting room, the supermarket, and of course the back seat of the car really can keep everyone happy.
But the New York Times story raises questions about whether using the device is harmful to the developing minds of young children. From the NYT:
“Along with fears about dropping and damage, however, many parents sharing iPhones with their young ones feel nagging guilt. They wonder whether it is indeed an educational tool, or a passive amusement like television. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long advised parents not to let their children watch any TV until they are past their second birthday.”
With every technological development, there’s bound to be some hand-wringing. Ever since television was invented, parents have had to balance screen time with other activities. Spending too much time using any sort of screen can’t be good for anyone. But we believe that apps can provide an educational experience. And we’re grateful to have an opportunity to make apps that don’t merely pacify children.
Our apps inspire kids. When designed with a child’s curiosity in mind, an app can open up new worlds, enhance literacy and foster a child’s own creativity. For us, one of the most exciting parts of creating an app is testing it with kids and watching them explore.
As we near the end of development on our 3-D Three Little Pigs app, we’ve been sharing it with more and more young readers. They hear the story and read along. They spin the pigs in the air, make the van race ahead, help the wolf blow down the houses and impersonate the characters’ voices. We’ve even seen some American children try on British accents! And we see this as a good thing.
But the best thing of all is something we hadn’t anticipated. We are seeing kids take something away from the app and incorporate it into play when they aren’t using the iPad.
In one case, a 6-year-old boy in New York used our 3-D Three Little Pigs app and then – completely unprompted – grabbed paper and pen and made his own booklet of the story. He took the digital experience and made it physical. He took the app we created and created something himself. If you didn’t already view the video above, see what I mean right here.
Kate and Deb spent yesterday at the London Book Fair digital conference. You can follow what was said on Twitter at #lbfdc, and Nosy Crow (@nosycrow) tweeted throughtout. Kate was on a panel on maximising commercial opportunities in the digital environment.
Several good sessions. Issues covered included the challenge of large-scale organisations working through processes and politics in order to come up with good digital stuff; the fact that publishers haven’t had to link up to consumers seriously before; the sheer variety of digital projects, both marketing and product; and the importance of the smartphone.
Nosy Crow was saying that it was excellent to be a new start-up in this digital environment: we don’t have a big, legacy infrastructure to feed and an established business model to transform from. We don’t even have backlist books that it’s tempting to spend time trying to squash onto a phone. We have freedom to make our own, new business model and we have a small integrated team. We said that, while we’ll be doing more standard digital products (straight ebook novels, eg), we have clearly defined our core digital audience – techno mum of children under 7 (so, in UK terms, pre-school and Key Stage 1) and will deliver exceptional products that have been commissioned for the device – in our case, iTouch, iPhone and iPad at this point – using the capabilities of the device including interaction, sound, animation, text and pictures.
Lots of people – judging by the retweets and the people who wanted to talk to us afterwards – seemed to like this approach.
Someone – no-one’s admitting to it, but we suspect Adrian – spilt coffee on one of the hand-made dummies that we’ve been using to gather interest at Bologna, and were planning to reuse at the London Book Fair. This is Camilla with her scalpel and double-sided tape, giving you a glimpse into the throbbing high-tech heart of Nosy Crow’s print book business.
Having seen so many foreign publishers at Bologna, Nosy Crow’s London Book Fair is fairly UK-focussed. Still, we’re sad that a number of friends won’t be turning up from continental Europe and the USA because of the volcano-induced flight cancellations and delays.
But we’re bashing on anyway. Kate will be on a panel called “Maximising digital opportunities across the industry” at the London Book Fair Digital Conference on Sunday which Deb is also attending, and Kate, Camilla, Deb and Imogen will be at the fair on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and expect that they’ll fairly often be found at the IPG stand (J205).